The book follows a group of men as they sell their services as dragon slayers throughout various kingdoms. The story starts off with the king, Cullin, inviting his son the prince Maurice out for a drink at a local tavern, the Scaby Wench run by a man named Reeger. Fearing that his son puts too much interest in Fairytales and is too naive of the world, Cullin begins to tell Maurice about "the dragon business" he and his two friends ran when Cullin was a younger.
Before Cullin was a king, he was an orphan peasant in a town called Folly. One day, two monks arrived whom claimed to be on a 'holy mission' to deliver the skull of an important saint to a worthy Priest. The two monks claimed that if the town of Folly could give a big enough offering, their town would be deemed worthy enough to receive the skull. The town scrimps every bit they have and give the money to the two monks. Cullin, who had no money, could not contribute to the offering and is later denied the privilege to see the skull. Cullin flees into the forest and discovers the two monks (whom have many many skulls to sell the the neighboring kingdom) and is initiated into their group.
Cullin travels from kingdom to kingdom with Sir Dalbry and Reeger coning Royalty out of sacks of gold. Their most profitable con, requires Sir Dalbry and his "squire" Cullin to spread rumors (disguised as other people) of a dragon in the town and create a panic while Reeger creates a scene where a dragon attacks. Cullin and Sir Dalbry then enter the court where they inform the King/Queen that a dragon has been seen in their Kingdom--those at court have heard the rumors and are in a fluster. Sir Dalbry agrees to take on the quest of slaying the dragon for a small reward. Afterwards, they meet up with Reeger and hide in the woods preparing a crocodile head with antlers glued on to show to the court as the slain dragon. Though this scam works for several of the kingdoms, Cullin, Sir Dalbry and Reeger come across a problem when the princess of one Kingdom beats them at their own game. Faking her own kidnapping to get out of an awful marriage, the princess Affronyl, joins the group as an unlikely fourth.
While proceeding to the next kingdom, Cullin, Sir Dalbry, Reeger and Affronyl stumble upon a real dragon--in a panic the foursome have no idea what to do and decided to flee to the next kingdom. However they are coerced into helping slay the dragon by a group of other knights. The knights, held together by a ridiculous code (and it should be noted that Sir Dalbry is not a real knight) agree that each should face the dragon alone. As one by one the knights fall, Sir Dalbry is last. Cullin, in an attempt to save his friend, knocks out the knight and he with the help of Affronyl kill the dragon--thus becoming real dragon slayers.
The book ends with Culling telling his son this story as an attempt to bond with his son and make him a better (and less gullible ruler) in the future. It is never mentioned how Culling became king and whether or not Affronyl later becomes prince Maurice's mother.
Best part of story, including ending:
It's an unusual bit of fantasy literature but with a much broader base, thus can appeal more easily to more people. The story itself is a nice change from the types of "fairytale" stories prince Maurice likes. The story deals with real issues that we so often see today.
Best scene in story:
Oddly, it was the very anticlimactic ending that I enjoyed so much. Cullin, in a moment of real sentiment reveals to the reader the whole purpose of the outing was to bond with his son and make him a better ruler.
Opinion about the main character:
Cullin is likable enough. I can't say there was anything I particularly liked or disliked about his character.